Wednesday, March 01, 2017

This Torah Is Mine, Too

I’ve watched the debate about women clergy with an intense but detached interest. I care because I’m an Orthodox Jewish woman who hopes one day to have a strong, committed Orthodox daughter, and because I’ve met some of the women who are taking these roles and I’m impressed by their knowledge, passion, and sincerity.

But I’m also somewhat detached because there is no alternate universe in which I would have become a rabbi/rabanit/maharat/raba/shul program director/whatever other term may or may not indicate that a woman has suddenly crossed the line from acceptable to unacceptable community leader.

So, I was a little surprised by how upset I got this past Shabbat at an oneg with several community scholars-in-residence. At the oneg, there was a large U-shaped table for the respected visiting rabbis and other men … and way back in the corner, there was a small table for the women.

(To be fair, at my husband’s insistence, I sat with him at the men’s table as did one other woman; everyone was courteous and no one asked me to move. I got one or two—maybe imagined—longing looks from the women at that table in the back corner, but that was it.)

There I was in the presence of several important rabbis whose Torah I had come to hear, and I literally did not have a seat at the table.

What that said to me was that I did not have a part in this Torah, that the Torah that was being offered there by learned, well-respected rabbis was simply not mine. I could be a bystander but I was in no way a participant in this Torah.

And here I became attached to the debate. Because this Torah is mine, too.  

I was blessed with a solid Modern Orthodox Jewish education on par with the best that is offered to girls of the separate but equal (yes, I mean inherently unequal) variety. I spent a year in what is largely considered an academic seminary. Since then, I’ve attended various shiurim and classes. I considered doing GPATS for a hot second. I’ve been learning Daf Yomi for the past three and a half years.

So, yes, this Torah is mine, too.

I wish that I had been given a more serious Torah education and better Gemara skills every single evening when I do Daf Yomi. I wish that I could attend a Daf Yomi shiur, but I was told that my presence at the local shiur would make the men uncomfortable. I wish that the girls who attend the local co-ed day school learned Gemara with the boys instead of being separated to learn American history because “girls aren’t allowed to learn Gemara.” I wish that when I tell people that I do Daf Yomi they were impressed just by the commitment and not by the fact that I am a woman who has made the commitment.

Mostly, I wish that I didn’t have to assert that this Torah is mine, too.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Adventures in the Daf: The Most Awkward Conversation

So, I'm playing a little catch-up on the Daf, but today's learning covered whether you're allowed to cut your nails on Chol HaMoed and during aveilut. During shloshim, if a woman needs to cut her nails in preparation for going to the mikvah, she is supposed to ask a non-Jewish woman to cut them for her. 

I'm not exactly sure how that conversation would go....

Monday, June 09, 2014

Not That Kind of Doctor

Five years ago, I moved to L.A. to begin a Ph.D. 

I made new friends, desperately missed my old ones, learned to be a better driver (not good, but better), discovered charm in a city that was not New York, found a man I love and married him, moved to the Midwest, moved back to California, learned a lot, wrote a lot, and .... have earned my doctorate. 

I probably have more to say on the topic, but I also have dissertation revisions that need to be made, so for now, I will leave you with this quote:

"Doing a PhD is hard. It's supposed to be otherwise everyone would have one. It's nothing like the study you've done before, not even a Masters. It's supposed to break you and turn you into something else. In that way, we might think of it as a four year hazing. You'll get through it and you'll be a stronger and richer person for it but understand that scholarly work taxes your personhood."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Once You Become Parents, We Can Still Be Friends

I have lots of updates and whatnot, and the truth is at this very moment I should be doing dissertation-related stuff and I'm not sure anyone reads this anymore, but...

So, this article has been going around the Internet about how once your friends become parents, they basically don't have time for you and that's not because they don't think you're awesome or anything, but still they won't be able to hang out with you ever again. 

I have a response, but I should first note that my friends have been extraordinarily excellent about making time for me, even after having kids. Yes, the relationship has changed and schedules have certainly changed and we don't talk on the phone until midnight or 2 a.m. (quite frankly, I don't think Z would appreciate that either), but my friends are truly excellent. This is a more general response to the assumption that people without kids cannot possibly understand people with kids. </disclaimer>

Dear friends with children,

Your kids should obviously be your priority. We get that. I mean, you brought people into the world and you're responsible for their well-being and that's a tremendous thing. Don't assume that just because we don't have kids we don't get that. 

It's OK if you talk about your kids a lot. They're adorable. Also, they're important to you, and we value that because we care about you so we care about what's important to you. But we need you to care about what's important to us, even if it pales in comparison to your kids. Whatever it is—boy trouble, school trouble, job trouble, clothing trouble. At least pretend to care. If you roll your eyes and make it clear that you don't care about the things that are important to us because they're not as serious or as difficult or as exhausting as taking care of children, well, that's insulting. 

We get that your schedule is much more limited and you won't always be able to make time for hanging out, but gracefully make exceptions for the big things. We appreciate when you come out for our important events even though it's hard, but the last thing we want to hear for the next year is how awesome a friend you are because you left your child for a few hours to come to our engagement party/wedding/graduation/birthday party/whatever. 

And on that note, if you can't come to some event, large or small, that's the way it is. But, again, graciously bow out and do not share all your machinations about how hard it is for you but maybe you'll think about trying but on second thought how could you possibly think of leaving your child even for a moment, etc., etc. If you can't come, we'll be sad. If you make us feel guilty for even asking, we'll feel unimportant and sad.

That said, we love you and we love your children, and we're so happy for you.

Love, your children-less friends

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This Is the Embodiment of Me

I don't really believe in spending $50 on shoes and probably the last thing I need right now is another pair of flats (especially because I live in California and end up in flip-flops almost all the time), but...

Also, these:

Also, an entire Etsy store basically dedicated to literary shoes. Oh, man.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I <3 Grad School (at This One Moment in Time)


"The shortage of academic jobs relative to PhD candidates leads some to say fewer people should do a PhD. But that is a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of higher education. One objective of education is to gain the skills required for a job, but higher education isn’t a trade school. ... Instead, the most valuable skills are intangible: how you process and present information, work well with others, and learn new things."

(Despite this warm-and-fuzzy grad school moment, check in with me tomorrow while I'm writing my dissertation, and I might give you an, uh, different opinion.)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

In Which We Brainwash Children

Woman with child at Starbucks: The yellow soda is Mountain Dew. It has caffeine and that's not very good for children.
Boy: Only grown-ups?
Woman: Yes.